||The motivation behind this report is to evaluate and respond to past and current decision
pathways employed for determining state allocation of the Environmental Quality Incentives
Program [EQIP] funding under the Natural Resource Conservation Service [NRCS]. We
work to provide justifiable recommendations for how the allocation of EQIP dollars
might be improved, especially as it pertains to improving equity among those states
with the highest priority needs. The distribution mechanism of federal EQIP funding
to each state has received significant criticism in the past. The criticism stems
primarily from the usage of a weighted factor formula that has been thought to unfairly
favor certain states over others. Beyond questions of equity, there have also been
more fundamental concerns over the quality of data inputted into the funding formula.
In this project, we worked with our client, a Program Analyst at the North Carolina
NRCS office, to tailor our recommendations to the specific concerns of one state.
Our client’s specific concern was that North Carolina has historically been positioned
lower in the national ranking of EQIP funding that it receives as compared to many
other large agricultural states.
To better understand the process of federal EQIP allocation, we reviewed the history
of EQIP, examined the past and current decision pathways used to determine federal
allocation of conservation dollars to state NRCS offices, conducted interviews among
NRCS staff, and quantitatively analyzed the funding allocation process. We provide
scenarios for how it might be possible for a state like North Carolina to increase
the allocation of EQIP funding that it receives and attain better conservation on
identified lands of highest priority. We expect that our recommendations targeted
at helping EQIP improve equity among states in the federal funding allocation process,
will ultimately lead to a rise in North Carolina’s allocation of EQIP funds and in
its national ranking among other states.
In this project, the formula we use to develop our quantitative analysis of the federal
EQIP allocation process is the formula used by NRCS for fiscal years 2009-2011. The
EQIP formula includes two parts: financial assistance and technical assistance. From
our analysis, we developed a number of scenarios that propose ways in which the funding
formula might be changed to better address different social or environmental issues
and to serve those states that, in the past, have struggled to receive the same budgetary
support as other states, and so are less likely to see the needs of their farmers
and the conservation needs of their land be served to the same degree.
Our evaluation led us to make a number of recommendations that we expect will move
EQIP more in line with its stated goal of optimizing environmental benefits. Our
recommendations are also made with the goal to reduce or eliminate many of the inconsistencies
and criticisms that have beleaguered past EQIP funding allocation processes.